March 9, 2005
EXISTING STATE PROGRAMS APPLICABLE TO NANOTECHNOLOGY
By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst
You asked whether any existing state programs could help develop nanotechnologies.
In the 1990s, the legislature created several technology-related programs that could be adapted to, or serve as models for, developing nanotechnologies. (Nanotechnologies manipulate chemical and biological matter at the atomic level, giving them new properties that can lead to new products or applications. For this reason, nanotechnologies cut across different scientific and engineering fields.) These programs were aimed at fostering university-business research collaborations, encouraging students to enter technology fields, helping companies produce and deploy new technologies, and financing start-up technology companies and laboratory construction. Several fell dormant within a few years, but some are ongoing; these latter are administered by Connecticut Innovations, Inc., (CII). Much of CII's current emphasis appears to be in the biosciences.
UNIVERSITY-BUSINESS RESEARCH COLLABORATION
Yankee Ingenuity Technology Competition
The law establishes a high technology research and development program to promote collaboration between businesses and the state's colleges and universities in advanced materials, aerospace, energy and environmental systems, information technology, applied optics, microelectronics, and other high technology fields (CGS § 32-41t and u). CII sponsors an annual competition to develop and commercialize products or processes that could significantly contribute to the state's long-term economic growth. It has earmarked $1.5 million for the 2005 competition. Proposals applying nanotechnologies would appear to be eligible in many of these categories.
Faculty and researchers engaged in applied research and development at eligible institutions and scientists from one or more eligible businesses can jointly submit proposals. They can receive up to $300,000 for projects that can take up to two years. Proposals must demonstrate a substantial partnership between academe and industry. Colleges must agree to share with CII any royalties or equity they realize from a commercially successful proposal. Businesses must make substantial cash and in-kind contributions, which vary depending on their workforce size. More information is available at Yankee Ingenuity.
Advanced Technology Centers
In 1991, the legislature authorized CII to fund advanced technology centers based on cooperative research arrangements involving business, university, and government agencies. To receive funding, centers had to show that they had a good chance of producing fundamental technological advances with commercial applications, have a plan to help businesses benefit from these advances, and stimulate business development and long-term job growth. Businesses and universities were also expected to invest in the centers, and the centers were expected to give the state a return on its bond investment by granting the state patent rights, royalties, or other returns (CGS § 32-40a-40c).
ENCOURAGING STUDENTS TO ENTER TECHNOLOGY FIELDS
Technology Scholar Program
PA 00-187 permitted CII to establish financial programs to attract and retain Connecticut residents to study science, engineering, math, and other technology-related disciplines in college. CII's technology scholar program awards scholarships to high school seniors in the top 20% of their graduating class who major in science or technology at a Connecticut two-or four-year college, maintain a B average, and agree to work in Connecticut for two years after graduation. Awards are $500 per semester for the first two years and $2,500 per semester for the last two years.
Scholarship recipients can also participate in a leadership program that helps them prepare for the work environment. The program, which takes three to four days, features team building, leadership training, and business and personal development components. Technology scholars can also participate in a CII-sponsored business internship program.
High Technology Graduate Assistantships
The Department of Higher Education awards $10,000 to selected graduate students in high technology fields designated by the Board of Governors in consultation with the economic and community development commissioner as meeting statewide economic needs. Students are selected by a panel of graduate faculty. The awards are for one year but can be renewed for two more years. Students at public and private universities are eligible (CGS §10a-170a to d).
The BioBus is a fully equipped mobile laboratory that travels to middle and high schools as a way to interest students in bioscience careers. CII has committed $1.5 million to provide half the funds needed to outfit the bus and operate it for five years. Connecticut's BioScience cluster provided the other half. A similar facility might possibly demonstrate nanotechnologies.
In 1993, the legislature created a series of technology deployment programs to help businesses (1) apply available technologies or processes in their existing operations or (2) develop and manufacture new products using available technologies. The programs provided several different models, some of which featured university-business collaboration, that might be reworked for use with deploying nanotechnologies. CII administered the programs.
For example, $3 million went to the Connecticut State Universities to establish a center to help manufacturers apply computer-integrated manufacturing, computer-aided design, just-in-time manufacturing, and total quality management processes. A nonprofit consortium that included businesses and public or private colleges received $1 million to create an energy and environmental technologies center to deploy technologies in two critical, but unnamed, technology sectors where the state possessed “unique scientific and human resources.” And colleges and universities and non-profit consortia of businesses and colleges
could share $500,000 in grants to promote deployment of advanced materials, photonics, pharmaceutical, and environmental technologies (PA 93-382, CGS §§ 32-42i to –o).
FINANCING START-UP COMPANIES
Eli Whitney Fund
CII uses this fund to invest in early stage technology companies that present the greatest potential for economic growth—information technology, bioscience, photonics, and energy and environmental systems. Initial investments range from $500,000 to $2 million.
CII targets this $5 million fund at early stage biotechnology companies. Initial investments range up to $500,000 and are based on criteria that include the strength and depth of the firm's intellectual property, the track record of its business and scientific leaders, and the potential of the business opportunity.
BioScience Facility Fund
The legislature created this fund in 1998 and has provided $50 million in bonding to support it. Through it, CII provides various forms of financing to biotechnology companies for the constructing “wet” laboratories and related space. The specific type of financing depends on the risk level and the recipient's specialized needs. The same law that initially authorized CII to finance biotechnology laboratories also enables it to finance other kinds of high technology laboratories, such as those that employ nanotechnologies (PA 98-203).
CII has formed a joint venture with Phoenix Companies, Inc. to offer seed stage venture capital and professional management support to high-tech start up companies committed to locating in Connecticut. The fund, Next Generations Ventures, LLC, addresses a void left by traditional venture capital firms, which typically invest in companies at a later stage when they have proven commercial concepts.